“The reality was that I couldn’t make enough money to survive in New York and be an artist the same way I did in Korea,” shared Blond Jenny, New York City-based visual and performing artist and photographer. Many artists can relate to this financial struggle. Read her story to learn more about her life as an artist in Korea versus in New York. Despite obstacles, Blond Jenny’s resilience and dedication to art is clear.
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Here is Blond Jenny’s artist story:
Moving from Korea to NYC
I’m a painter, a performer, and a photographer. I was born in Korea. I was lucky financially while in Korea since I taught many students in my institute and university in Korea. I could make money and paint. I also had my own studio space. However, I wanted to move to New York since I thought Korea was too small for me. When I moved to New York, I couldn’t work because I had a student visa. I lived off my savings and also needed my family’s support.
The reality was that I couldn’t make enough money to survive in New York and be an artist the same way I did in Korea. I studied fashion business because I thought it would help me find a job in New York. I managed to get two internships, one in pattern making and postcard design for a major fashion brand and the other one as a visual intern where I helped with store design and displays. I worked for them for free because I thought they would lead to full time, paying jobs. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. So after I graduated, I tried many jobs (cashier at a restaurant, jewelry store clerk, make up artist for a cosmetic company, and coordinator at a dental office) but none paid enough money to live comfortably, alone in New York. I’m learning that it’s hard to both paint and make money. Most of the jobs I have tried require me to work over 10 hours a day, six days per week but I was happy to make some money in New York.
It was a totally different life in Korea than the United States. I could easily make money in Korea since I was a popular art teacher there. My job didn’t provide health insurance but it’s affordable in Korea so I paid for it on my own. In New York I have to build my new career in the fashion field and art field from scratch. I can’t speak or write English well because it is not my first language (I needed a friend’s help to write this essay). I feel like employers are more strict with me than they are with native speakers. Despite this, I’m now building confidence in my life in New York and feel I can survive to fight for my artistic life on my own.
I am part of a new artist group that I enjoy even though I do not get paid for it. We have sponsors for our shows and encouragement for our art. The group has made me Vice Chairman. I’m managing our Facebook page and researching for our upcoming projects. Also, I write a fashion trend column about New York for a Korean art magazine every month, which I get paid for. I also do some paid part time work for an art supply company including online marketing with Facebook and I also do some packaging design. My art work has appeared in group shows. I get these shows through networking and applying to any appropriate call for art I come across.
My Studio Is My Living Room
I’m sharing my apartment with a roommate. I used to live alone in a two bedroom apartment so I could use one room for my bedroom and another room for my studio. After I graduated college I needed money to survive so now I paint in the living room. I would like to get a studio, but it’s hard to find time because I have to work five or six days a week. Working at home allows me to work late at night, which is better for my schedule and budget.
My Art Work
In my work two different images are connected by one. My work is based on things I love like bears, family, friends, and my national identity. My work tells the story of the two sides of my life. I’ve been using both photography and painting to convey imagery that consists of true and false, reality and fiction. I express opposite ideals (North and South Korea, Apple and Samsung, Korea and America). My artwork shows the utopia of different ideas coexisting together for a better good — for example, my imaginary animation character with real humans or a sculpture of bear highlight issues of communication. Taking the bear as an example, I made a story which about an American bear. I talk about the American bear and Jenny which is my fantasy character. They are strangers that become friends. I like telling a story using a character in short stop motion format as inspired by Charlie Chaplin movies.
To learn more about my work, please visit my website: www.blondjenny.com or email me at Blondjennyny@gmail.com